Diet plays a significant role in managing diabetes. As anyone who has diabetes, or their caregiver, knows, diabetes becomes a game of numbers and math. The goal is to balance blood sugar levels as much as possible, and the more you can do that with diet and exercise, the less you have to play with insulin doses.
However, this can become a challenge as age-related changes or medical side effects diminish appetite or a loved one’s sense of taste. The good news is that a diet for elderly diabetic patients can be colorful, exciting, and packed full of flavor.
As a spouse, family member, or caregiver, there are things you can do to honor the physician’s dietary recommendations for managing diabetes while simultaneously fostering a sense of appreciation – rather than dread – around meal and snack times.
Keep reading for suggestions on how to honor a healthy diet for elderly diabetic patients.
Note: Always have any change to diet or meal plans approved by your physician before implementation.
Smaller, Consistent Snacks Rather Than Meals
A smaller appetite is a natural side effect of aging. Loss of appetite is exacerbated when someone doesn’t feel well, doesn’t burn enough calories during daytime activities, or due to medication side effects. Full-sized meals can seem unappealing, whereas smaller snacks are manageable.
The good news about coordinating a day full of small, consistent snacks rather than meals is that you keep blood sugar levels more consistent without those hour-long gaps associated with a three-meals-per-day mentality. Also, as many dieticians point out, we’re less likely to overeat at mealtimes if we have consistent calorie intake throughout the day.
Powerpack Snacks With Low-Carb, High Flavor Options
Here are ideas for low-carb snack options with lots of flavor:
- Cottage cheese or yogurt with cinnamon or other favorite flavor additions.
- Whole wheat, multigrain toast spread with avocado and tomato, hummus, ricotta cheese, peanut butter, etc.
- Smoothies with plain yogurt, cinnamon, vanilla extract, some almonds, and just a hint of a favorite fruit blended with it. Low-glycemic sweeteners such as stevia or agave can boost the sweet without elevating blood sugar levels.
- Sliced vegetables dipped in hummus or plain yogurt with dill (which tastes remarkably like ranch dressing when doctored up a bit – minus the sugar added to commercial versions).
- DIY low-carb snack mix.
- Make snacks and meals colorful. The more appealing the plate, the more appetizing it is, so use the rainbow of vegetables and creative whole-grain/low-carb ingredients.
Drink More & Eat Less
Is there an elderly diabetic not eating as many solid foods in your home? That can be incredibly stressful, and you don’t want mealtime or nutrition to become a battleground. So first, rule out other scenarios:
- Do they have a denture or bridge with a poor fit?
- Are they feeling a loss of control? Are there other areas where you can give them more power so meals aren’t the place they exert control in the way of not eating?
- Are any medications interfering with their appetite or taste? Check-in with the physician, and perhaps they can be adjusted or changed.
Tension around food doesn’t help so addressing potential physical or mental/emotional causes may assist you in finding the right solution. In some cases, particularly as loved ones wind down, a lack of interest in food is quite normal. In this case, switching to a more sippable, rather than chewable, diet is easier on their palate and stomach.
- Make more soups, stews, or broths and puree them if necessary.
- Make smoothies more than meals.
- Mix an Ensure Diabetes Care or a Glucerna with ice in a blender and call it a “milkshake.”
- Replace some of their regular drinking water with vitamin or nutrient-enhanced water.
These changes can help loved ones get the nutrients they need and honor a diet for elderly diabetic patients without worrying about blood sugar instability. And remember, a healthy diet is key to a healthy brain so ensuring loved ones get the nutrients they need also supports cognitive function.
Enlist a Meal Service Provider
Does your loved one live alone or seem to lack the stamina to manage their diet? In this case, it might be time to enlist the support of a meal service provider who specializes in diabetes meal plans. Experienced in-home caregiver agencies include meal planning, shopping, and preparation in their companion and personal care services offerings.
Our caregivers can:
- Do the grocery shopping.
- Prepare easy-to-heat meals and snacks that can be kept in the refrigerator and then eaten throughout the day.
- Sit with your loved ones so they don’t have to eat alone.
- Accompany clients to their favorite restaurants where they can enjoy eating out and engaging with their community
An added benefit of enlisting help with meal preparation is you gain an automatic “wellness checker.” Caregivers keep an eye on how your loved one is doing and report any signs additional support is needed.
Make Sure They Stay Active and Engaged
If lack of appetite is the main reason elderly diabetics aren’t eating, see if exercise and social engagement helps. The more they move and engage in the world around them, the more calories they burn and the better their appetite will be – especially if some of that social engagement occurs during shared meals (it’s always more fun to eat with company).
- Learn more about exercises that promote cardio, balance, and strength for homebound seniors if mobility is an issue.
- Plan outings that get seniors into the surrounding community or honor their interests and hobbies.
- According to recent research, “a majority of seniors said they eat more nutritiously, and that food tastes better when they are eating with others.” Consider hiring a companion for seniors who live alone so they have company while they eat.
We Can Help You Support the Diet for Elderly Diabetics
North River Home Care has over 15 years of experience providing companionship, meal support, and diabetes diet management for our clients and their families. We would love to help with any health and food safety concerns you have for your aging loved one.
Enlisting help is especially important as food safety can become a concern for our elderly loved ones. Read more below to learn how to make sure your loved one is eating safely.